Gai Waterhouse is filled with confidence that her well-bred Johannesburg mare Once Were Wild ran the ideal Sydney Cup trial when winning the Group 2 Chairman’s Handicap (2600m) at Randwick last Saturday.
Four-year-old Once Were Wild outclassed a strong field of fellow stayers in the Chairman’s Handicap in a return to form for last year’s Australian Oaks champion.
Following her brilliant one and three quarter length, all-the-way victory over Anudjawun in the Chairman’s, bookmakers around the country slashed their price on Once Were Wild to win the $500,000 Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) on the closing day of the Sydney Autumn Carnival, Saturday April 23.
Before her last-start win, Once Were Wild sat around $9 in the ante-post Sydney Cup markets but has since firmed into the $6 second elect behind Lloyd Williams’ The BMW runner-up Mourayan.
Once Were Wild is equal fourth on the Sydney Cup ballot and is an excellent lightweight chance for the two-mile showdown with just 52.5kg.
The Sydney Cup weights, however, will be raised if current topweights Descarado (58kg), also prepared by Waterhouse, and the Anthony Cummings-trained Zavite (57.5kg) are not accepted.
The mare’s sole start over the Sydney Cup distance of 3200m was in last year’s Melbourne Cup where she finished a well-beaten 11th behind winner Americain.
The success in the Chairman’s came five runs into Once Were Wild’s preparation this year, her most recent performance going into last Saturday being a ninth place finish to Bid Spotter in the Listed NE Manion Cup (2400m).
Relishing a return to her home track at Royal Randwick, Once Were Wild outclassed them on the weekend in a promising sign for Saturday week.
“She’ll win the Sydney Cup,” Waterhouse said.
“She’s taken an age to strike form and really get fit.”
Jockey Nash Rawiller is also confident Once Were Wild is peaking at the right time to take out her second Group 1 win in the Sydney Cup.
“That (the Sydney Cup) has been the main aim the whole way,” Rawiller said.
“She should be there, better again.”
Fourth placegetter in the Chairman’s Handicap was the fellow Waterhouse-trained Older Than Time who is also off to the Sydney Cup.
Four-year-old Don Eduarado mare Older Than Time had a horror barrier 13 draw in the Chairman’s and did well to finish two and a half lengths away fourth behind their stablemate.
Sitting equal 18th on the Sydney Cup order of entry, Older Than Time is allocated the minimum 51kg handicap and is a $21 outsider in the markets.
Chairman’s Handicap runner-up Anudjawun is unlikely to make the Sydney Cup field well down the ballot in equal 67th, but third-placegetter C’est La Guerre will line-up according to connections.
The Chairman’s Handicap has been an excellent guide to the Sydney Cup in recent years.
Last year the John O’Shea-trained Zabeel mare Jessicabeel won the Chairman’s Handicap / Sydney Cup double as did No Wine No Song in 2008.
Acceptances for the 2011 Schweppes Sydney Cup field will be taken on Wednesday April 20 and published here first at Races.com.au.